Election results for most ballots in the recall of state Sen. Josh Newman show a large lead for removing the Democratic lawmaker from his north OC-based seat, with 59.5 percent of voters supporting it and 40.5 percent opposing.
The ultimate result of the recall has implications for whether Democrats keep their supermajority in the state Senate.
As of the 1 a.m. results update from Orange County’s elections office, at least 80 percent of all estimated ballots were counted across the county. Most of the 29th District’s voters live in Orange County.
Voters also were asked Tuesday to choose Newman’s replacement for the 29th District if the recall passed.
Leading the replacement candidates as of the first results was Republican former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang (34.4 percent). She was followed by Democrat former Cerritos Councilman Joseph Cho (20.2 percent), and Republican Fullerton Councilman Bruce Whitaker (19.6 percent).
The results at 1 a.m. Wednesday reflected roughly 83 to 92 percent of the total estimated ballots cast countywide in Orange County, based on a rough estimate by OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley of 27 to 30 percent total turnout.
About 40,000 mail-in ballots across Orange County were received by election officials on Election Day, according to news reports citing Kelley. It was unclear early Wednesday how many of these ballots, equivalent to roughly 10 percent of the total estimated turnout, remained to be counted and reported.
Officials also do not know how many ballots are currently in the mail. Under state law, ballots mailed on or before Election Day are counted and included in the final result after they’re received by the Registrar.
As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties said 92 percent and 100 percent of precincts, respectively, were included in their online results.
Newman (D-Fullerton) faced a Republican-led recall effort, with his opponents saying he should lose his seat because he voted last year to increase California’s gas tax and vehicle fees.
The recall effort was part of a battle over whether Democrats will have a supermajority in the state Legislature, which allows the party’s members to increase taxes, suspend legislative rules, approve emergency legislation that takes effect immediately, and overturn vetos from the governor without any Republican votes.
Democrats currently have a supermajority in the state Senate, by one seat, and are one seat shy of a supermajority in the state Assembly.
In April 2017, Newman was four months into serving as a state Senator when he voted with the other Democrats and a single Republican senator for bill to raise gas taxes and vehicle fees to generate over $5.4 billion each year for road and bridge repairs, as well as public transit improvements..
The bill, known as SB 1, raised California’s gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and increased diesel fuel taxes by 20 cents per gallon. Supporters said it was needed to fix aging infrastructure and address a funding problem from the existing gas tax not increasing with inflation.
Opponents, including Republicans, have said the gas tax increase harms families, reflects overspending by Democrats in Sacramento, and that the state should use existing gas tax revenues for the infrastructure upgrades.
Republicans said they succeeded in gathering enough signatures statewide to place a repeal of the gas tax on the November ballot, though the state Attorney General’s office hasn’t announced if it has qualified.
Newman’s 29th District includes the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Cypress, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Stanton, and Yorba Linda, as well as part of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
The district has proven to be competitive. When Newman ran for the seat in 2016 against Republican Ling Ling Chang, he won by 0.8 percent of the vote.
California Democrats, including Gov. Jerry Brown, helped Newman raise at least $2.6 million to fend off the recall effort, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Republicans spent over $800,000 last year collecting 66,597 verified signatures that placed the recall on Tuesday’s ballot.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.